The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020

Will talks about Sandy Hook shooting

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

December 14, 2012, is a day Maureen Will would likely remember for the rest of her life. Will, who is head of the Communication Center in Newtown, Connecticut, was in charge the day 20 elementary children and six school staff were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Newtown, Connecticut, Communications Director Maureen Will (left) chats with Van Wert County 9-1-1 Coordinator Kim Brandt following Will's presentation at a seminar held Wednesday at Vantage Career Center. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)
Newtown, Connecticut, Communications Director Maureen Will (left) chats with Van Wert County 9-1-1 Coordinator Kim Brandt following Will’s presentation at a seminar held Wednesday at Vantage Career Center. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

It was the things her agency did right — and learned to do right — that day that Will shared with nearly 100 first-responders during a seminar held Wednesday at Vantage Career Center’s Community Room.

Sponsored by the Van Wert County Enhanced 9-1-1 emergency system, Will’s presentation, “School Shooting Lessons Learned,” was one of several presentations Wednesday dealing with catastrophically violent situations, such as the Sandy Hook shooting.

Other speakers included Van Wert County Sheriff Tom Riggenbach, who spoke on K-9 use and other law enforcement-related issues in conjunction with major shooting incidents; Van Wert Police Officer Greg Blackmore, who spoke on workplace violence and the VWPD’s responses to such incidents, and Deputy Lauck of the Allen County Sheriff’s Office, who spoke on ALICE training in Allen County schools.

Will’s presentation included details of the Sandy Hook shooting, from the dispatcher’s point of view, and also provided information on what dispatchers can expect if they were to have an event like this in their community.

“Nothing will ever prepare you for what we went through, it just won’t,” Will said, “but you need to have training, you need to have policies and procedures in place, and you need to believe in yourself and know that there are people out there who will help you.”

Although the shooting was a huge tragedy, Will said it was also, in some ways, a validation for Newtown’s communication policies and procedures. One thing Will said she could have done better would have been to call for help earlier.

“You always feel that your staff can handle it, but it only took me two days to realize the magnitude of the calls coming in,” Will said, adding that the aftermath of the incident, with thousands of calls from media and people wanting to help was also draining on her nine-person dispatching staff.

Several of those attending, which included dispatchers, EMS medics and fire personnel and law enforcement officers, said they learned a lot from Will’s presentation.

“She said several things that we do here, but she also talked about things that we just hadn’t thought about,” Sheriff Riggenbach said.

Will noted that the Van Wert presentation was the last one she would be doing after traveling for nearly two years and 27 states telling the story of the Sandy Hook shooting. Noting that she needs to get back to her own department and her own job, Will also said she feels good about being able to help other responders prepare for unthinkable situations like the one she went through.

“I like it when people come up to me later and say ‘I wasn’t prepared this morning, but I’m prepared now’,” she said.

Dispatchers, Will said, typically are good at thinking outside the box and at doing what has to be done.

She also talked briefly about the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, noting that, while there are still “bumps in the road,” things are slowly returning to normal in the Connecticut community.

“We’re getting there,” Will said.

POSTED: 10/09/14 at 8:50 am. FILED UNDER: News